It’s only a few weeks away, the Road Safety Remuneration Order, better known as the ‘Road Transport and Distribution and Long Distance Operations Road Safety Remuneration Order 2014′, comes into force on May 1. Are you ready? Is anyone ready? The order has crept up on us with minimal publicity and little advance information.
Where the uncertainty lies is in whether the order will be acted upon by the authorities. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is a creature of the last Labor Government at federal level and is, therefore, anathema to the Abbott government. The assumption has been the law would be repealed by an incoming Coalition Government but there is very little action yet and the deadline draws close.
Senator Eric Abetz, who is the Minister responsible for this area of the law had commissioned a report into whether the order is a duplication of the existing regulation and whether it achieves anything. The report was due back to the Minister by the end of March, and this is all we currently know.
Clearly, the way the commission was worded indicated an assumption the order was simply a replication of the current rules. We can therefore assume the report will conclude this to be the case. Even with a report saying this, it is not clear how the trucking industry stands, as of May 1.
At the moment, there is an order, it is law and it comes into force in a fortnight. There may be a report on the Ministers desk saying the order is pointless, but the legislation is still extant and road transport operators can be liable as of the start date. The Government has said the Carbon Tax will be repealed, it is still on the statute books and Tony Abbott will need to get his ducks in a row in the Senate to repeal it.
At 13 pages, the order is not a simple read. The first thing anyone needs to know is whether they are covered by the order and what their exposure is. Operators need to work out which of their drivers and sub-contractors are covered by the order and then ensure compliance on a number of counts. Contracts between employer and employee, as well as between contractor and sub-contractor, and safe driving plans have to meet specific criteria set out in the order. There are also specifications on training, drug and alcohol policy and payment periods.
Failure to comply with the order, even if it is short lived, could have serious consequences. Prosecutions could happen and even if the rules are about to be repealed, operators will still be found in breach. We might not like it but we will have to live with it, for now.